And so both the Vikes and Bears sit at 9-6 with one game to play. They are the only two teams in the NFC Wild Card chase that can finish with 10 wins (if the Redskins get to 10 wins, they’d win the NFC East, thus having no bearing in the Wild Card race), so they have a significant edge over the rest of the competition.
Minnesota has the tie-breaker over Chicago, meaning their situation is simple: win and they’re in. But that win will have to come against division rival Green Bay.
The Bears travel to Detroit to finish their season, where they’ll need to beat the Lions and hope for a Vikings loss. If both of those things happen, the Bears will claim the sixth and final NFC postseason spot.
If Chicago and Minnesota lose, things open up for the NFC East teams still in the hunt. A Giants win and losses from the Vikings and Bears—plus the Cowboys—would put Big Blue into the playoffs.
That scenario is a long shot, though, since the Bears will be favored against a Lions team which has dropped seven straight. There’s no doubt that Detroit would love to spoil division rival Chicago’s season, though.
Meanwhile, the Vikings face a tall task in needing to outduel Green Bay, but they’ve played them tough before. In Week 13, Minnesota went on the road to Green Bay and lost a close 23-14 game. They led 14-10 at the break, but couldn’t keep up in the second half.
Christian Ponder played a terrible game that day, completing just 12-of-25 passes for 119 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Adrian Peterson, on the other hand, erupted. The best back in football rushed 21 times for 210 yards and a touchdown. They’ll need a similar effort from AD but a far stronger one from Ponder to clinch a playoff birth on Sunday.
The game is relevant to the Pack, too. They currently trail the 49ers by a half-game for the No. 2 seed in the conference. A Green Bay win and San Fran loss at home against the Cardinals would guarantee the Packers at least one home playoff game. That’s good news for the Bears, who have no reason to fear Green Bay will rest any of their players against the Vikings.
It should be an absolutely wild Week 17, and the NFC North is smack-dab in the middle of it all.